Goodbye to my dear friend, brilliant actor, crazy good memoirist. He said it was dangerous to play the part of Hamlet, but he had to.
I posted yesterday about my friend Ben’s death and deleted it later because it was up for awhile and didn’t get any likes. So goes our virtual existence now. The shredded fabric of society hangs in tatters. We don’t see or hear from a friend from months but we don’t notice because we don’t hear from a lot of friends who have succumbed to the isolation and fear.
I forget the timeline, but it was probably 2015 when Ben went to Australia to his family home Montsalvat to try to recover from an Adderall addiction and deal with his depression. He played piano regularly in the Elsinore-like stone halls. If I believed in ghosts, I’d say that’s where he is now singing the Hamlet Blues. He went into hospital to heal his body, but to heal his mind he later went into a studio where he recorded this song at night and my novel Locus Amoenus, playing the part of my 21st century Hamlet as a kind of therapy. He said it saved him, doing that. He said he knew that actors who played Hamlet had an uncanny tendency to end up dying by self-slaughter. But, as you can hear in the sung rendition of the famous soliloquy, Ben had worked through the depression and he was very much alive.
Give Ben a part to play and he turned manic. He threw himself into it, his whole being. If only Ben had had a part to play this summer in some little theater somewhere in London, he’d be alive today, I think. What had he been doing these last hellish months?
The reading of Locus Amoenus Ben recorded in Australia to recover from depression was terrible. It was depressed, low energy. He didn’t realize yet that Shakespeare’s Hamlet is manic. Ben got on a plane and came to stay with me in Amenia and we recorded a manic version of Locus Amoenus. He became Alexander’s Hamlet; he was more my Hamlet than myself.
Of course following Ben’s bad luck with these kinds of things, the publisher screwed up the contract and Amazon took the money that was supposed to go to Ben. No one really bought the audiobook, anyway, even though it is better than the print version because it has the additional genius of my mad friend layered on it. I added a link today, pirating my own audiobook to give it away for free. Ben would want to give it away. He gave himself away to everyone he knew. And he never tired of it. Never.
Some friends may not want to hear Ben singing the Hamlet Blues, but Ben would want me to share it. I’m certain of that.